My partner can be very negative at times. She can be quite confrontational when we are out, when we meet people and spend time with friends and family, and I feel I’m becoming negative when usually I’m a very positive person.
I do really love my partner and there are so many lovely things about her that I admire. I have briefly spoken to her about how I feel, but she takes it very personally and gets upset, then says, ‘Leave me then, and go and find someone happier and less negative’. I don’t know what to do. Name supplied
I want to ask if we can put the idea of this being a relationship issue to one side just for a moment. If what you want is to have a lasting relationship, in which you have a positive influence on each other and the people around you, then love alone will not be enough. You also need to have assertiveness.
That might sound a bit like a dismal afternoon in an office, with a flipchart and some nasty-tasting coffee, but ‘assertiveness’ is important enough to be classified under health information on the Bupa website – just before ‘assisted conception’. Find more information here.
It means being able to talk openly about yourself, and your needs, while respecting that the other person is entitled to their own opinion. The aim is clear, calm thinking and respectful negotiation. This potentially solves any problem, or at least clarifies precisely what you disagree about. I’m not clear, for instance, what you mean by ‘quite confrontational’, and it sounds to me as if your partner couldn’t work out whether you were upset about just one aspect of her behaviour, or whether you were attacking her as a whole person.
Some of it is as simple as the language you choose to use – starting with ‘I’, not ‘you’, and ‘could’ instead of ‘must’. You might also want to do some research on active listening, to help defuse the situation before you get to an ultimatum on either side, such as, ‘If you don’t like it, leave’.
The reason I suggested putting the idea of a relationship issue to one side is that this is not a relationship issue, it’s a communication issue – but if you can’t communicate with each other, you won’t have a relationship.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email email@example.com, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line